Answer: Generally, no, it is not illegal to date your boss, with a few limited exceptions.
In the article that follows, we’ll explain.
Is It Illegal To Date Your Boss? (Discussion)
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Laws About Dating
In the United States, there are few (if any) laws that govern “dating.”
In fact, the term “dating” can mean a great many things, depending upon who you are and what “dating” means to you.
Dating can mean talking on the phone, it can mean going out to dinner, it can be physical intimacy.
Thus, the law doesn’t regulate dating.
Instead, it prohibits specific types of conduct between specific types of people.
For example, it is against the law in all 50 states for an adult to engage in physical intimate activities with a minor (as defined in the state).
“Intimate” activities can even include innocuous activities if they are meant with intimate intent (like touching someone’s neck, thigh, or stomach).
But technically, there’s nothing to stop an adult from “dating” a minor, so long as the adult’s conduct doesn’t run afoul of some specific law prohibiting the activity.
So long as the manner of “dating” does not involve illegal conduct, there’s nothing criminal about it.
Laws Preventing Dating At Work
When it comes to at-work relationships, there are no laws that we know of that make a consensual relationship between consenting adults who are both available to be in the relationship illegal.
Areas where the relationship could stray in the bounds of illegality include:
- age (minor)
- capacity (minor, elderly, mental disability)
- consent (one party is pressured/threatened/coerced/influenced into the relationship)
- marriage (some states make adultery a criminal offense)
- misrepresentation (lying at work to maintain the relationship or to obtain benefits)
- sexual harassment
In most cases, the law doesn’t govern workplace romance.
Instead, the employee handbook, any rules or policies of the organization, and then employee’s contract that governs whether a relationship with a boss or employee will cause trouble for the involved individuals.
While it may not be illegal, many companies frown upon relationships between employees who are at different levels in the company (grunt vs supervisor), or when the supervisor has direct authority over the employee he is in a relationship with.
While the involved parties may do their best to prevent the relationship from impacting the workplace, it can cause problems regardless if others find out about it.
The relationship can lead to distrust, accusations of favoritism, discrimination allegations, hostile work environment, and more.
The senior of the two members of the couple probably has more at stake than the junior.
What To Do If You Want To Date Your Boss?
While there are no laws that would make it a crime for two single, consenting adults with capacity to be in a relationship, it might not be the best step for the careers of either individual.
If two adults who work together are serious about dating, they may consider pressing pause on the relationship to do one of a few things:
- find another position in the company so that they couple is not in the same chain of command
- transfer to another supervisor
- notify the company of the relationship so that the company can take steps to avoid liabilities (this may be required by contract anyway)
- find another job
In any event, getting some space from the supervisor at work will help the junior of the couple understand whether the attraction is related at all to the power imbalance.
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